Hadyr Koumakpai, Africa general manager at JA Solar, explains how Africa is in a prime position to become a solar giant in the coming years
Questions around Africa’s energy transition have perhaps never been more pertinent as COP27 arrived on African shores in November (in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt). These come into greater focus as effects of climate change increasingly take a more noticeable form – according to the recently released The State of the Climate in Africa 2021 by the UN, this phenomenon is undermining human health and safety, food and water security, and socio-economic development and is threatening to destabilise countries and even entire regions.
While Africa is still only responsible for around 2-3% of global greenhouse gas emissions, the vast renewable resources it possesses means it has unrivalled potential to become a leader in this space which could (aside from the environmental benefits) serve to meet much of the continent’s energy needs.
Koumakpai commented, “It is now well understood that solar on this continent, compared to others, is unparalleled and can offer so much to the population. For years the world has been looking at Africa and expecting to see big volumes on the market. There is no doubt that demand is big (matching even that of Asia’s if the continent reaches its full industrialisation potential) but the question is now whether we can really start to embrace this opportunity, bring in more volume and ultimately count the continent alongside the giants when it comes to solar.”
In answering this question, Koumakpai described how the resource has been bolstered by the maturity of technology which has made the price of solar much more competitive and answered questions over reliability; the fact that it presents an effective way of implementing power capacity quickly; and that it is incredibly scalable.
“We have enough records of solar projects to show this is the case and, as a result of these factors, there has been a lot more movement in the market, especially in the last few years.”
By example, Koumakpai recounted how JA Solar supplied just over 450MW to Africa in 2021 but already this year it had supplied more than 500MW as of August-end and is expecting to close 2022 with around 600-700MW delivered to the continent.
“We supply some of the largest projects in Africa including the Benban project in Egypt (130MW); the Zaafarana solar park in Egypt (50MW); a 30MW mine in South Africa; and generally a variety of ventures across the continent. Next year, we are looking to provide more than 800MW or even 1GW to this region alone.”